In itself, blended learning is not a silver bullet that can solve the common problems teachers encounter in their classrooms, such as large class sizes, lack of student engagement and the need to offer more feedback. However, a meaningful blend of on-campus and online course elements can support student learning in ways that overcome some of the barriers to learning that could occur in the traditional face-to-face settings.
Here we outline some of the opportunities that blended learning offers. Concrete solutions will of course depend on your discipline, the course’s learning objectives, class size, and your own pedagogical preferences.
In many traditional teaching settings, students are passive receivers of course content. Blended learning provides opportunities to design and incorporate activities that promote active participation and further the development of higher-order thinking skills.
For example, after introducing new material, students can be given online recall tasks, offering both immediate feedback online and an opportunity for a whole-class follow-up at a later face-to-face session. A blended learning format can also enable many acquisition tasks to be carried out before class via readings and pre-recorded lectures, allowing more contact time to be dedicated to activities that require learners to meaningfully interact, connect with, and reflect on the studied information and concepts, such as discussions, debates and presentations.
Engaging students in collaborative activities has been shown to have effects that may not be attained in teacher-directed learning. Online environments allow students to continue interacting with their peers on course tasks, even outside the classroom. For example, students can be asked to contribute to an online discussion on Canvas or a collaborative writing activity in an Office 365 document. Longer group projects can be facilitated through Canvas Groups functionality, which offers a multi-purpose space for student collaboration and a channel of interaction with teachers on the course.
Teachers have limited capacity to provide students with personalised feedback on their performance during the semester. Blended learning allows students to benefit from the feedback opportunities that can be built into the online platform:
- Different quiz formats enable students to check their understanding and track their own progress.
- Peer Review activities have the double benefit of offering the receiver detailed feedback and allowing the reviewer an insight into the evaluation criteria.
- Discussion Boards allow students to benefit from comments made by their teachers and peers.
Students at CBS are eager to learn about real-life business. Blended learning offers opportunities to engage students in authentic learning tasks – tasks that simulate the challenges and contexts of the contemporary working environment. The online environment allows students to take part in business simulation games and gives access to video cases and interviews with high-profile practitioners while the face-to-face sessions can focus on discussion, reflection and teacher guidance.
Digital technologies are prevalent in our daily personal and professional lives. Blended learning allows the flexibility of access to teaching materials that can be a more natural fit for our students’ normal routines and match their learning preferences, for example, by offering a mix of readings, video lectures and podcasts.
Furthermore, online modules can facilitate access to career-relevant digital platforms, with in-class time dedicated to reflections on their affordances and limitations.
Students have a growing expectation to be able to shape their learning journey. Blended learning can support students in creating their own pathways through the curriculum that are best adapted to their learning needs, skills and interests. Online components of blended courses published on Canvas offer students control over the time, place, path, and/or pace at which they are learning. This is particularly important for students with known learning differences, such as dyslexia or ADHD, but the benefits can stretch to many more groups of students and allow them to attain the highest possible levels of mastery.
Blended learning also allows teachers to differentiate between the ‘required’ curriculum and ‘additional’ resources and activities that could offer further learning opportunities for students who have a specific interest in the course topics.